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  Barack Obama Music Video  

"America, America,
God shed his grace on thee...
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea."
America the Beautiful

Photo: Art Koch Photography

For many, the Inauguration on January 20 brought into the foreground the spectrum of feelings often evoked by the time-honored hymn, America the Beautiful — pride in the tremendous strengths and gifts America has been graced with, dignity, beauty, respect, brotherhood, innate goodness.

America the Beautiful was (surprisingly!) the foundation for the Choose To Unite song and music video! The original lyrics included a line inspired by the hymn, written as "Let us feel our brotherhood from sea to sea..." The first musicians who laid the foundation for the piece worked around the actual hymn.  Several rough first demos were made from that foundation.

As a tribute to the depth and beauty of our Inauguration, I wanted to share one of the early versions/demos of the song (rough draft, unfinished!) with America the Beautiful in it, under the original working title Restoring Dignity:

Restoring Dignity2

Music & Vocals:  Aunt Claire
Nancy Gray, Linda Pedelty, Nina Hart, Virginia Gilstrap
Narration & Male Vocal:  Joey Bradley
Remix:  Joey Bradley

I, and many others, loved the early versions of the song incorporating America the Beautiful. The shift in the song's arrangement organically occurred in tandem with the movement in the campaign. It became clear Obama was creating a groundswell among younger generations, and the overarching energetic driving the vision and country's swelling desire was CHANGE — letting go of the old and bringing in the new. With these energies in mind, the song took on a new direction, creating a high energy tune that was not only a campaign song, but, as one person wrote in to us after it launched on YouTube, "A song of universal support for the birth of our new world."

The Inauguration offered a magnificent blend of two things – leaving the old and ushering in the new, and honoring where we have come from and all those who have led us to where we are today. While many things were done differently than ever before, there was also a beautiful and respectful inclusion of tradition and decorum. In the Restoriong Dignity version of our song, the read of the lyrics – Obama's specific messaging – on top of America the Beautiful encapsulates the blend we just experienced on this historic day of celebration.

The first demo for Choose To Unite was made in April 2008. The musicians in the session, upon hearing a first rough mix, exclaimed, "I feel proud to be an American again." That expression surely mirrors how so many Americans are now feeling.
We the People...


America the Beautiful as our National Anthem?

As an aside, several people who listened to the early America the Beautiful versions reflected,  “I wish America the Beautiful were our national anthem!”  I was surprised to recently read in Wikipedia that “at various times in the more than 100 years that have elapsed since the song as we know it was born, particularly during the John F. Kennedy administration, there have been efforts to give America the Beautiful legal status either as a national hymn, or as a national anthem equal to, or in place of, The Star-Spangled Banner, but so far this has not succeeded. Proponents prefer America the Beautiful for various reasons, saying it is easier to sing, more melodic, and more adaptable to new orchestrations ... Some prefer America the Beautiful over The Star-Spangled Banner due to the latter's war-oriented imagery. (Others prefer The Star-Spangled Banner for the same reason.) While that national dichotomy has stymied any effort at changing the tradition of the national anthem, America the Beautiful continues to be held in high esteem by a large number of Americans."